NYT blasts Biden for avoiding interviews

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The New York Times issued a scorching statement on Thursday blasting President Joe Biden for avoiding media interviews as establishing a “dangerous precedent,” as liberals criticized the paper in response to a POLITICO report detailing friction between the Times and the White House.

The Times in a statement called it “troubling” that Biden “has so actively and effectively avoided questions from independent journalists during his term.”

The New York Times issued the statement as reporters for the publication also pushed back on the POLITICO story, which detailed the tense relationship between the storied publication and the White House, denying that publisher A.G. Sulzberger shapes coverage.

“[I]n meetings with Vice President Harris and other administration officials, the publisher of The Times focused instead on a higher principle: That systematically avoiding interviews and questions from major news organizations doesn’t just undermine an important norm, it also establishes a dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to avoid scrutiny and accountability,” the statement reads. “That is why Mr. Sulzberger has repeatedly urged the White House to have the president sit down with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNN and other major independent news organizations that millions of Americans rely on to understand their government.”

The New York Times had sent a nearly identical statement to POLITICO earlier in the day.

The report depicts how the Biden administration takes issue with the paper’s coverage of the president’s age and low polling numbers, while the Times asserts the White House isn’t “being realistic” in how it views journalism and its editors are frustrated they can’t get a sit-down interview with Biden.

Several of the paper’s top reporters took aim at a section of the report where two unnamed sources described Publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s private comments that “only an interview with a paper like the Times can verify that the 81-year-old Biden is still fit to hold the presidency.”

“I’ve never heard AG say anything like that nor anyone else at the @nytimes,” Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent at the Times, wrote on X. “It's just not the way it works. AG wants us to cover this president — and every president — as fully, fairly and aggressively as we can because that's our role. That's true regardless of whether we get an interview. AG takes our responsibility very seriously and is a complete straight shooter.”

Astead Herndon, a national politics reporter at the Times, disputed the claim from an unnamed source in the report that Sulzberger “quietly encourages all the tough reporting on his age.”

“Coverage of age has been driven by the fact that it’s a very big deal in this election. And to say claims like this ‘further undermines credibility of nyt political coverage’ this cycle feels like it should have better evidence than a single anonymous quote,” Herndon wrote in a post on X.

Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement for the POLITICO report that the White House does “not comment on the specifics of our private discussions with reporters and editors.”

“But as a White House that believes deeply in the role of the free press in American Democracy, we would note that a mutually honest, fact-based, respectful back-and-forth is a cornerstone of any healthy relationship between a media outlet and an administration,” Bates said. “We have that kind of dialogue with The New York Times and many other media organizations.”

The report also struck a nerve with those on the left who are afraid that the Times is attacking Biden with its coverage.

Democratic political strategist Tom Bonier wrote in a post on X that the POLITICO report “confirms what many had theorized for quite some time, and further undermines the credibility of the NYT's coverage of this election.”

Brian McKeon, former deputy Secretary of State for Management during the Biden administration, wrote in a post on X that the Times “wants accountability” for the White House “but not for itself.”

“Let us know when the paper publishes multiple stories about Trump slurring his words in speeches and falling asleep in court,” McKeon wrote in a post. “Or quoting Repub voters and pols calling on him to drop out.”